Prison catering departments are required, under the Northern Ireland Prison and Young Offenders Rules 1995 to "provide every prisoner with sufficient food which is wholesome, nutritious, palatable, adequately presented and well prepared and which takes into account age, health, and work and, as far as practicable, religious or cultural requirement" (Rule 82).
Prison Service catering aims to provide a varied and healthy menu, which takes account of prisoner’s preferences, whilst maintaining compliance with all relevant food safety legislation. Catering requirements are supplied by an in-house team of various officer and civilian grades who provide meals for staff and prisoners, 365 days a year across the three prison establishments: Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre and Prison.
Expenditure on food varies from year to year, fluctuating in line with the prison population and against seasonal market factors. The client estimated the expenditure to be between £2 million and £4 million each year. On a daily basis this translates to a budget of between £2.42 and £2.71 per prisoner to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner (each of which must offer a minimum choice of three alternatives, including one healthy choice and one vegetarian option); supper; a pint of milk per prisoner; bread and snacks for the landing areas.
The following key objectives formed the basis of the procurement strategy:
- achieving value for money
- ensuring micro, small and medium enterprises could access the contract
- ncorporating best practice in food standards and participating in recognised national or international assurance schemes (or equivalent standards)
- ensuring food items can be tracked within the supply chain
Tender process and contract model
CPD divided the client’s needs into two geographic lots – North West (Magilligan Prison) and Lisburn and Belfast (Maghaberry and Hydebank Wood). This ensured that micro, small and medium enterprises in these regions would have the opportunity to bid for the tender opportunities.
To further ensure accessibility, the contracts in each of the two regions were then divided into sixteen individual contracts, spread over four broad categories of food bands. These categories were then sub-divided into product specific lots (eg milk, eggs, bread, beef, lamb, poultry, pork and others) to ensure that lots were accessible to bidders from micro, small and medium enterprises, including food producers.
Supplier briefing sessions were incorporated into the tender process, for the purpose of:
- engaging with the supply base to stimulate interest
- encouraging networking and collaborative opportunities between local producers, suppliers and distributors
- advising suppliers how to tender for public sector contracts online
CPD worked with the client to ensure each tender specification included compliance with all the relevant food standards and labeling legislation. The tender process included site visits to test the supplier facilities and processes for food safety management (in line with Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). Accreditation to ISO 9001 2008 or equivalent was mandatory for potential suppliers.
The tender documentation included product specifications, incorporating quality standards and the requirement to participate in recognised national and international assurance schemes to establish provenance of the supply chain, sustainable sourcing and animal welfare.
Special dietary products were included, eg low salt, gluten free and healthy eating - low in saturated fats, salts and sugars choices. Ethnic food products were also required to be sourced, prepared, processed and packaged in accordance with the specific requirements of the relevant religious law, where these apply to Halal or Kosher foods.
As part of the quality criteria, tenderers were required to demonstrate their strategy and systems to reduce the impact to the environment. Tenderers were required to make every effort to reduce the use of wrapping and packaging materials, whilst maintaining the integrity of the products and fitness for purpose. Bio-degradable packaging was stated as preferable.
On evaluation of the tenders, sixteen contracts were established which met all the clients requirements. Fifteen of these contracts were awarded to either micro, small or medium enterprises.